The Western Australian branch of the Australian Marine Sciences Association recognised the conservation significance of Ningaloo Reef in the 1960s, when it recommended that the reef be declared a marine reserve.
Ningaloo Reef, stretching over 300 kilometres from North West Cape to Red Bluff, is located in the Ningaloo Marine Bioregion and is the largest fringing coral reef in Australia. It is one of WA’s premier marine conservation icons and home to dugongs, manta rays, six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and about 500 fish species.
The area is also important from a social perspective and the Ningaloo experience is a cherished part of WA’s coastal heritage. Commercial whaling, turtle hunting and fishing operations were based in the region in the 1950s and 1960s. During the next two decades, fishing became the region’s main attraction but more recently there has been a major shift towards more passive, nature-based activities .
The Ningaloo Marine Park was originally gazetted in 1987 and on 30 November 2004 the park boundary was extended to include the entire Ningaloo Reef. The Muiron Islands Marine Management Area – WA’s first marine management area – was also gazetted on 30 November 2004.
In December 2004, the Australian Government increased protective sanctuary zones on the Ningaloo reef from 10 per cent of the reef to 34 per cent. The management plan for the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park and Muiron Islands Marine Management Area 2005–2015 was formally approved by the Minister for the Environment on 7 January 2005.